Blaine County officials are seeking a revote in the race for Ketchum Rural Fire Protection District commissioner after an unknown number of residents received the wrong ballot in early voting, according to the Elections Office.
Just one could be enough to tip the election between incumbent Jed Gray and challenger Gray Ottley, which concluded Tuesday with the two separated by a single vote.
After consulting with the Secretary of State’s Office, the Elections Office asked the prosecuting attorney to petition a judge for a new election, to be held alongside the presidential primary in March, according to County Services Manager Brooke Baird.
She said she doesn’t think there were any problems at the polls, but District 1 of the Wood River Fire Protection District, which abuts District 3 of the Ketchum Rural Fire Protection District, also had a commissioner election Tuesday. The two districts don’t map neatly onto the county’s 5th and 6th precincts—some voters are in Ketchum Rural, others in Wood River—which may have spiked confusion among early voters.
At least “a few” voters noted the discrepancy upon seeing sample ballots advertised in the Idaho Mountain Express late last month, Baird said.
“We don’t know how many people got the wrong ballot,” she said on Wednesday afternoon. “But, we’re not 100 percent confident in the results we have.”
Those were close: Of the ballots in hand, Gray defeated Ottley 228 to 227.
For now, the county will set those figures aside. The county commissioners signed the official canvas of votes Thursday morning, finalizing the results.
Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas could not be reached for comment by press time on Thursday.
A judge would need to authorize a revote by Nov. 15, Baird said.
This commissioner election comes just after a major shift for Ketchum Rural, which extends north-south from Galena Summit to East Fork. The district took its $327,851 contract for services to Sun Valley’s fire department starting on Oct. 1, ending a 62-year relationship with the city of Ketchum.
Gray, who has served as chairman of Ketchum Rural’s board since 2012, voted against the move in May. In early October, he told the Idaho Mountain Express that he has since embraced the change.
The Ketchum Rural district is divided into three geographic areas, with a commissioner living in each one. Commissioner Chris Stephens—who announced his resignation on Oct. 24—lives in District 1, the northeast region, and Commissioner Earl Engelmann lives in the central District 2.
As Gray and Ottley wait, the district is looking to replace Stephens. His successor will need to reside in District 1, which spans from Lower Board Ranch, near Ketchum, north to Galena.
For more information on the open District 1 application process, call the Sun Valley Fire Department at 208-622-8234.